Satos – the Stray Dogs of Puerto Rico

It’s heartbreaking seeing stray dogs on the street. You want to take every dog home, but the expense is overwhelming. Vet bills and food can equal the care of a small child, it’s too much for one person to help all of the homeless animals.

For a dog, free-ranging sounds great. They have unlimited territory to claim on the small U.S. island. Unfortunately, the dogs also suffer from the excess of freedom. Fleas, ticks, parasites, and other health conditions are prevalent. Lacking appropriate care, the lifespan of these street dogs is relatively short.

What Type of Dog is a Sato?

Sato dogs have existed as long as Puerto Rico. These dogs are the ancestors of the animals brought to hunt and work on the island. Due to their diverse ancestry, Sato dogs have a varied appearance, but they also share a few commonalities. Most have a short, thick coat, a slight ear fold, and range from small to medium-sized.

Along with their short costs and lanky appearance, a Sato can weigh anywhere from 10 to 40 pounds. Most are between 9 to 18 inches and live up to 12 years with proper care. Even though the dogs are neglected, they make great companions and house pets.

Living with a Sato

A Sato is a loving and affectionate dog, and good with adults and children. How they were raised on the streets does make a difference in their temperament. While rarely aggressive to the family that takes the dog in, a Sato can be shy if abused on the streets. If they feel threatened, an abused Sato can become aggressive.

If you’re looking for a dog with minimal care, consider a Sato. You won’t spend hours walking the dog, they only need a few minutes a day. Some dogs, you may have problems getting off of the couch. Most Satos prefer a sedentary lifestyle. They are the ideal dogs for people that want a calm and affectionate companion.

Satos on the mainland

If you ask around your local shelter or at the vet, don’t be surprised if no one has heard of a Sato. Unless you live in the northeast U.S., these dogs are rare. Most Satos brought into the United States are homed in shelters in this region.

Southern animal shelters are overcrowded, along with the western part of the country. With Northeast shelters left to rescue the Puerto Rican stray dogs, the need for rehoming is overwhelming. The Sato Project has a goal to help these animals.

The Sato Project

The Sato Project is working to rehome Puerto Rico’s street dogs. Created in 2011, the project has rescued and rehabilitated over 5,500 dogs. They provide veterinary care and find the Satos loving homes in the United States. The project also operates a spay and neuter program. With more than 7,000 dogs and cats spayed or neutered, the Sato project hopes to curb the rising number of stray animals in Puerto Rico.

In 2017 Hurricane Maria struck the island with devastating effects. Before the small island finished rebuilding in 2020, several earthquakes caused additional damage. In response to these natural disasters, the Sato Project took on a new mission.

Their mission has expanded to include disaster relief efforts. The Sato Project delivers emergency supplies that help feed and care for street and shelter dogs. They are proud to have delivered more than 130,000 pounds of supplies around the island.

Puerto Rican animal shelters have a 90% euthanasia rate. Some are higher. The shelters are overburdened, and the majority of animals that go in do not find loving homes. The Sato Project is working to change the statistics with their No Dog Left Behind program. Their mission is to find homes in the United States for all of Puerto Rico’s stray animals.

Mark Webster, Contributor
Mark Webster is the co-founder and editor at Dog Food Heaven. His aim? Simple. Cut through the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your furry four-legged friends!

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